Issue: April-June 2015
Bandworld Magazine Page


Developing a Beautiful Brass Sound (Part 2) concluded
by Joe W. Neisler

Practice Mute

Using a Practice Mute can help improve projection and response. Practice mutes, designed for apartment and hotel use reduce decibels and increase resistance. Practice mutes encourage us to inhale more air and blow faster, developing both tone and dynamic range. Playing along with loud recordings on a muted instrument helps to develop a great sound.

Long Tones

Great players practice long tones, from ppp to fff each day. We should begin with phooh, without the tongue; make an immediate crescendo to as loud as possible and a slower decrescendo to as soft as possible. During crescendos we should relax the aperture to allow more and thicker air and contract the aperture slightly inward to produce a smaller diameter faster air stream for diminuendos. We should strive for steady, consistent pitch and a beautiful sound at all times. It may help to watch a tuner.


At, Jay Friedman principal trombone of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, states, “Everyone can move air fast when playing the louder dynamics, (although most people even then don't move it fast enough) but as soon as the dynamic is reduced the air will automatically slow down, causing the sound to change, lose focus and projection. The way to think about the sound in the softer dynamics is to imagine a forte dynamic that has been moved a distance away. In other words it is the same sound, same clarity, same intensity and focus, just farther away. The only way to achieve this is to not slow down the air stream when playing soft. Less air will be used at the softer dynamics but it must move at the same speed to get the same sound as in the louder dynamics. This can be done by narrowing the aperture of the embouchure so that the air stream is concentrated into a smaller area causing it to move faster.”

For Horn Players Only, Right Hand Position

The position of the right hand in the bell is very important to a good horn tone and intonation. There is much variety in the right hand positions use by professional hornists and we may use slightly different right hand positions for different musical effects. However, there is general universal agreement concerning the following ideas. Insert the right hand, in a vertical position, similar to a handshake, into the bell. Keep the thumb and fingers close together without any spaces and touch the back of the hand/fingers to the inside of the bell at 3 on the face of a clock. Keep the hand and wrist straight and so that the tone flows past the palm, not into it and is not muffled by excess cupping of the palm.  Remember to keep your right hand inserted straight, but deeply into the bell.  Think Princess Waive, then vertical like a handshake and insert until knuckles prevent further insertion. Read the chapter on Playing Position and Use of the Right Hand in The Art of French Horn Playing by Philip Farkas and The Dale Clevenger French Horn Method. We can even use the right hand with different positions in the bell to change the sound like an artist uses different brush strokes. One of the most common horn playing errors is playing with the right hand too far out of the bell and the hand too cupped. Playing with the right hand too far out of the bell causes a sharper, brighter sound and doesn’t provide a good response and “slot” for upper register. Playing with the right hand too cupped makes the pitch flat especially on the B flat side of a double horn in the upper register. Playing with the right hand too far out of the bell and the hand too cupped combines two problems, a sharper, brighter sound that doesn’t provide a good response and “slot” for upper register and flatness especially on the B flat side of a double horn in the upper register.


Choice of instrument and mouthpiece can influence sound. A change of mouthpiece often changes the tone more than a change of instrument. We should purchase the best quality, free blowing, warm sounding equipment that we can afford, but remember it’s the player not the instrument that produces the sound.

Listening and Imagination

Remember daily listening to mp3s of great artists and live concerts by the best soloists, orchestras and military bands help us develop a concept and memory of a lovely tone. Mental imagined tone concept, desire for a lovely tone and daily fundamentals are the most important keys to developing a beautiful sound.